The Imperial Satellite 127 was created by the Herbert George Company in Chicago, Illinois. The company changed hands in 1961 and it was renamed to the Imperial Camera Corp. They were one of the first to offer cameras in multiple colors.
As its name suggests, the Imperial Satellite uses 127 roll film and captures twelve 2 x 2 inch (or 4×4 cm) exposures and it has a detachable flash unit that takes M2 flash bulbs.
You can see just from the front plate that it was made in the space age of the 1960’s.
It has a fixed shutter like most of these cameras with one speed at around 1/50th of a second with two aperture settings marked color and B&W. Color film back then was much slower than today, so the aperture for the color setting was larger than the aperture for the black and white setting.
The camera is made of plastic and the shutter mechanism is pretty primitive. It looks like a paperclip, but that is not unusual with these cameras. I have reviewed many cameras with simple shutters. You’ll read down below the issues I ran into with this particular one.
What is 127 film?
This film was created by Kodak in 1912 for their Vest Pocket model so 127 was sometimes called Vest Pocket film. (I have several vest pocket cameras that I hope to review in the near future.) They actually didn’t stop making this film until 1991. The 127 slide film was especially popular because it was square and larger than 35mm.
I received this camera in a mail call from my Uncle B. I love the look of the Imperial cameras and in the past wanted to collect them for decoration. When I got this one though, I decided of course I had to shoot with it.
127 film is pretty expensive. I bought a few rolls of Rera Pan 400 from Film Photography Project at $13.99 a roll (thank you to those of you who sent me donations via my donation page. This was made possible by you). I only designated one roll to this review because they’re so valuable, and I will be reviewing other 127 cameras, so that put even more pressure to get good pictures on the first try. Of course I had many problems, but I still managed to get several useable shots from this roll.
I took the camera with me to a doctors appointment, as I always do. The first couple shots were fine. I set the aperture to B&W because it was bright out, but the pics came a little dark. This could be from processing though. You’ll see what I mean in a second.
After the first few shots the flimsy shutter started to get stuck in the open position. I don’t see that it really affected my shots. But it is hard to tell.
As you can see in the shot above with the mailbox, the curve in the shot is from the fact that the film doesn’t seem to be held flat inside the camera. I didn’t realize this of course until after I developed it.
You may also notice in these shots, that the top is bright and the bottom is dark. This was due to a blunder I made in processing. I use a plastic tank to process my film. On the bottom it says that you can process 2 rolls of 35mm or 2 rolls of 126 film. You can also develop a roll of 126 with 35mm. Right under that it says 1 roll of 127 film. The print is black just like the tank its printed on and very hard to make out. I mistook it to read that you can fit a roll of 35mm with a roll of 127.
I loaded both rolls inside my dark bag. I was all proud of myself because it was my first time loading 127 film. I felt no issues inside the bag as I did all of this blindly. It wasn’t until I started the chemicals and went to go agitate, that I realized they were so tightly packed into the tank that they wouldn’t even budge.
As I examined it closer I could see on the bottom that the tank was bulging. I couldn’t even do rotation agitation because the liquids were all leaking out. I had no choice but to continue or waste the film and chemicals. I did what I could for agitation and was surprised at the end to see the only issue was uneven developing. In my opinion, it wasn’t too bad. I am happy as long as there is a picture in the frame when it comes to these test rolls.
I had further issues when I went to scan the film. I also didn’t realize my Epson V800 did not come with a film holder for this format. I don’t know why I thought it did. So I had to tape the film to the 120 holder. Also, there is no profile for Rera Pan film on NegaFix so I scanned it as Ilford Delta 400.
This whole experience surely proved to be a labor of love. I also have the Satellite II to review in the future, so I learned a thing or two for that day.
All in all, this camera is what it is. Just like the other box cameras, and toy cameras I have reviewed, it is limited in specs and it does what it was created to do; take a simple snapshot.
As you know by now, if you read my reviews regularly, I am all about the experience when it comes to these old cameras. So it may not be worth the money for you to try one of these if you’re looking to make great photos.
I will be reviewing some more 127 cameras in the future. Hopefully I will be able to participate in 127 film day which I think is December 7th.
Until next time, stay motivated and keep shooting.
If you would like to donate to the upkeep of this site and to the film and chemicals I need for these reviews, any amount is greatly appreciated. You can make donations here. I may be adding prints to my for sale page as a way to donate as well if that is something you’d be interested in. Let me know in the comments.